British baker Freya Cox—who became the first vegan to participate in the Great British Bake Off—is partnering with the historic Castle Howard in Yorkshire, England to offer seasonal vegan cakes.
The first cake, which launched this month, is a mini Black Forest Gateau which features chocolate cake, buttercream, and cherry jam with a quintessential cherry on top. Cox created the cake to celebrate Veganuary and it is available from Castle Howard’s Coffee Shop and Courtyard Cafe
“We are starting off strong for Veganuary with one of my favorite bakes, a mini Black Forest Gateaux,” Cox recently announced on Instagram. “This cake is so good, I could definitely eat four in one sitting … you should definitely head down there and try it if you’re local.”
“It’s such an exciting project that I’m really proud to be a part of,” Cox added. “I love Yorkshire so much and can’t wait to see people enjoying it.”
Cox will be working with Castle Howard’s head chef, Nathan Richardson-Kelly, to create three more cakes throughout this year. “Here at Castle Howard we love to celebrate delicious, sustainable, local produce, and we’re absolutely delighted to be working with Freya to expand our vegan offering,” Head of food and beverage at Castle Howard, Luke Butler, told The Yorkshire Post.
“The mini Black Forest Gateau is a lovely indulgent treat for January, and we’re working behind the scenes on our spring and autumn cakes which we’ll announce later in the year,” Butler added.
The Great British Bake Off goes vegan
To keep up with the growing interest in veganism, The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) debuted its first Vegan Week in 2018. That week, each of the three challenges stripped baker contestants of their animal product go-tos and forced them to think like a vegan.
For GBBO’s 12th season in 2021, Cox became the first vegan contestant to appear on the show. However, despite her aim to showcase vegan baking, she was ultimately required to use animal products for technical challenges in which the same ingredients were provided to each baker for recipes such as malt loaf, jammy biscuits, and ciabatta breadsticks.
The Great British Bake Off
“I was desperate to show the world vegan baking is just as exciting with the hope to inspire people to give it a go,” Cox said on Instagram at the time. “For obvious reasons I wasn’t able to change the technical challenge as it would mean the whole show was unfair … but once the show has finished, I have plans to veganize the recipes for you all, so I hope this makes up for that.”
Cox kept to her promise to bring vegan baking recipes to the masses when she published her first vegan cookbook, Simply Vegan Baking, in April 2022. The book features recipes for cakes, biscuits, bread, traybakes, and pastries. Cox also shares many homemade recipes for sweet and savory dishes on her Instagram page to help make veganism more accessible.
Vegan cooking goes mainstream
While Cox helped bring more attention to vegan baking alternatives on GBBO, culinarians that came before her set the stage for the future of vegan cuisine on other network television shows. One of the first to make an impact was vegan chef and entrepreneur Chloe Coscarelli when she competed—and won—on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars in 2010. Since then, the show has featured a number of vegan bakers and even hosted an all-vegan episode in 2012.
Tabitha Brown/Feed the Soul
Most recently, vegan celebrity Tabitha Brown hosted the Food Network’s all-vegan cooking competition show. Called It’s CompliPlated, the show was built around the premise that cooking should be inclusive of everyone at the table. As such, each episode featured four chefs who were tasked with creating plant-based dishes for celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan and rotating guest judges who have various dietary restrictions. Some concepts featured on the series included a feast with Southern hospitality, gluten-free noodles, and an Instagram-worthy fruit-and-vegetable feast.
“This show is about to change the way we all see food,” Brown posted on Instagram. “It’s for everyone and I can’t wait to take you all on the journey with me.”
Gordon Ramsay loves vegan food
Meanwhile, more networks are bringing veganism to the table. Famed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, for one, hosted the Master Chef’s first vegan cooking challenge just last summer. During the episode, called “Gordon Ramsay Loves Vegans,” Ramsay reveals a long-kept secret: that he secretly loves vegan food.
Season 12 of the American reality television cooking competition featured the return of contestants from previous seasons to have a second chance to win. On the vegan challenge episode, Ramsay playfully admitted that he had a secret to share while he explained the vegan challenge to the competing chefs.
“It’s a secret that’s so big, I’m almost afraid to say it on national television,” Ramsay said. Ramsay, who has been known to joke and ridicule vegans and vegan food in past years, caused many of the chefs to raise their eyebrows and look shocked by what he might reveal. “Don’t worry, Gordon. This is a safe space. We’ll support you,” Judge Aarón Sánchez said as the competitors laughed.
“After all these years, I can finally admit that I actually love vegan food,” Ramsay finally revealed.
Before the chef demonstrated his beet Wellington—a vegan twist on the traditional meat dish—he drove home his point one more time. “It’s taken me 20 years to get to this point,” he said about his newfound love of vegan food.